View from the airport: Microsoft Ignite 2019

After a conference full of pragmatism, compromise and humble pie, it’s time Microsoft went back to basics

Microsoft's enormous flagship Ignite conference is now over for another year, but the roadshow has only just started – the company is set to visit a total of 30 different countries between now and mid-April 2020.

It was perhaps the largest conference I had ever attended personally, and featured a massive number of updates across its software and cloud portfolio. Major highlights include a new hybrid cloud platform dubbed Azure Arc, a new strategy and look for its Edge browser, and a raft of updates for its Teams suite.

What struck me most, however, was Microsoft's pragmatic attitude to both its investments and long-term goals. Whether the result of shrewd thinking or simply a realisation that the market isn't where the company wants it to be, Microsoft is looking to compromise.

Perhaps the most prominent example of this was in its security content. Ignite's security and compliance keynote – the first of its kind for Microsoft – was packed with updates across Microsoft's portfolio. However, despite the announcements, Microsoft wanted attendees to leave with 3 simple rules to follow: Turn on MFA, stay up to date, and use SecureScore (the company's built-in compliance tool).

In fact, speaking with executives after the show, I learned that these rules had been baked into every security presentation across the week, some 21 sessions. Every presenter was told to include one last slide that reminded users to turn on MFA.

It's a self-confessed compromise from a company that has spent a number of years trying to pivot its customers towards passwordless security. In the words of Alex Simons, corporate vice president for Microsoft's Identity division, this is "the new Microsoft, it's a little bit more empathetic".

Passwordless remains an incredibly important part of Microsoft's security strategy, but it's clear that this goal is still some distance away – at least three years according to Simons. While it's managed to onboard over 100 million of its users to things like biometric security, it still has around 700 million left to go. It's clear that customers aren't quite ready to completely change their own approaches to security. Whether that's due to the complexity of legacy hardware, or simply a reluctance to change, the company isn't quite meeting its customers where they are.

It's clear then why Microsoft is now making its MFA tool free for every user – it's a reluctant nod to customers, saying: "If you're going to use passwords, at least do it properly".

The same can be said for Microsoft's ambition for its Edge browser. The industry was eager to see what the company would do with its modernised platform, having just moved to the Chromium source code. It was never going to be enough to say that Edge now has parity with Google Chrome over things like compatibility and performance. Microsoft knew that, and from the way Edge is now being sold it seems the company is no longer trying to compete with rivals that are too far ahead in the race.

Instead, the company has taken quite a bold, and potentially innovative, step to try and fuse together the capabilities of a web browser with the data of a company's intranet. Edge is now pitched as a business companion tool that quite frankly could make the browser relevant again in the market.

Microsoft has had a difficult year, no more so than with a Windows platform that's been plagued with bugs and shoddy launches. Those experiences, backlash from customers and its growing irrelevance in certain markets seems to have humbled the company, and so it's now time to start meeting customers where they are, rather than telling them where they need to be.

Featured Resources

Humility in AI: Building trustworthy and ethical AI systems

How humble AI can help safeguard your business

Download now

Future of video conferencing

Optimising video conferencing features to achieve business goals

Download now

Leadership compass: Privileged Access Management

Securing privileged accounts in a high-risk environment

Download now

Why you need to include the cloud in your disaster recovery plan

Preserving data for business success

Download now

Recommended

Microsoft Defender for Identity can now detect Zerologon exploits
Security

Microsoft Defender for Identity can now detect Zerologon exploits

1 Dec 2020
Microsoft Teams to provide multi-account support
Microsoft Office

Microsoft Teams to provide multi-account support

5 Nov 2020
Chrome vs Firefox vs Microsoft Edge
web browser

Chrome vs Firefox vs Microsoft Edge

3 Nov 2020
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go review: Another shrunk-down Surface
Laptops

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go review: Another shrunk-down Surface

3 Nov 2020

Most Popular

Huawei Mate 40 Pro 5G review: A tragically brilliant Mate
Mobile Phones

Huawei Mate 40 Pro 5G review: A tragically brilliant Mate

26 Nov 2020
What is phishing?
phishing

What is phishing?

25 Nov 2020
Microsoft Teams no longer works on Internet Explorer
Microsoft Office

Microsoft Teams no longer works on Internet Explorer

30 Nov 2020